Christmas came a little early for City boss Neil Adams this afternoon as an 17th minute straight red card for Huddersfield defender Murray Wallace paved the way for an eventually thrilling 5-0 win over Grant Holt and Co.
The Canary legend was – rightly – awarded the full hero’s treatment by the Carrow Road faithful on his first return to Norfolk.
But with such pleasantries done and dusted, today was all about delivering the kind of rousing fare entertainment-wise that the paying Norwich punter has come to expect of their team.
And for the first five minutes of the second-half, the Canaries and their hard-pressed manager delivered fun and games by the bucketload with three goals in almost as many minutes to blow the ten-man Terriers’ apart.
The final half hour would have its moments too as Wesley returned with a party piece or two.
Bradley Johnson was twice on the mark as half-time substitute Nathan Redmond made an instant impression with City’s all-important second.
Initial flurry over, Huddersfield’s back broken, Cameron Jerome would get back to scoring ways with the fourth on 68 minutes; ditto Lewis Grabban, this time off a through-ball from fellow sub Wes Hoolahan.
All of which left the Canaries seventh in the table tonight; out of the play-off spots by two points. But for Watford’s late winner on Malky Macky’s unhappy return to Vicarage Road, City would have been seventh only on goal difference.
Even that was improving fast as Norwich rediscovered the form of the late summer in front of goal. What, in short was not to like?
“All in all, it was all you could have wished for,” Adams told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“We’ve seen game after game here – whether it is ten men or 11 – that teams will try and frustrate us. So we knew we would have to be patient.
“But once the first goal went in then it seemed like every attack we were opening them up in the manner that we can – and the manner that we were at the start of the season.”
In amidst it all, the manager still had some big saves from John Ruddy and the width of the crossbar to thank for keeping a clean sheet. Had the footballing gods been less kind; had the ten-man Terriers nicked one before the break…
On this occasion, Lady Luck smiled. And Adams could afford a wry grin himself tonight. It has been a tough couple of months at the helm after that flying start to the season’s proceedings.
Redmond’s arrival at the interval helped spark the blue touch paper. The England Under-21 winger looks destined for good things.
“I thought his performance was excellent – outstanding,” said the manager. Redmond’s name is sure to feature tabloid-wise come the transfer window next month. For now, Adams was just delighted with every aspect of his game.
“We made the tactical change at half-time to give us more attacking impetus against the ten men – and to give us that width.
“And Nathan was just too much for the opposition. His movement was excellent, his crossing was bang on the money every time and then, of course, he goes and scores a goal which is something that we have been encouraging him to do.”
Wallace’s early red card for being the last man as Jerome looked to plunder clear should, in theory, have immediately paved the way for a dominant City display that would have built on last weekend’s welcome away success at Wigan.
In the event, the first-half proved less than a Christmas cracker as some dogged resistance by the visitors combined with some less than assured finishing from the hosts ensured the opening 45 minutes remained goalless.
Jerome and Gary Hooper both scuffed at the odd chances that came their way, whilst Johnson would fire high, wide and less than handsome as the Terriers closed ranks on the edge of their own penalty area.
That, of course, would all change.
In the meantime, however, breaking down Huddersfield’s ten men was not helped by the narrow midfield four that had dug out that ugly victory at the JJB; little surprise, therefore, that the services of Redmond would be called upon at the interval as Adams sought that fillip of back-to-back wins.
Gary O’Neil – the steadiest of the Steady Eddies – was the one to make way as Carrow Road waited for Norwich to step up their game and take full advantage of Wallace’s exit.
In their wildest dreams, neither they nor Adams could have ever imagined what followed in the next five minutes.
The second period was less than a minute old before Johnson grabbed the game’s opening goal off a smart back heel from Hooper.
Less than a minute later and the newly-arrived Redmond was looping a polished, deep header back beyond a helpless Huddersfield keeper for the killer second.
Two goals in an under a minute became three in less than four as Jonny Howson’s blocked drive found Johnson reacting first and heading home his second goal of the afternoon to provide the cake for City’s welcome home success. The icing would follow before the final whistle.
Six, big points from their last two games may keep the doubters at bay for a while; it may even prove just the springboard Norwich need to motor north through the crucial Christmas period.
But the ifs, buts and maybes remain. No-one will be taking anything or granted after these two results – least of all in a league as topsy-turvy as the Championship; least of all with a club as topsy-turvy as Norwich City.